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Sunday, November 26, 2017

EUCON 2017 - My Experiences

It was great to be back at EUCON after not being able to go last year. I enjoy going to all the local events, and sometimes I wished there were a few more. If I have to be honest, I think there are almost enough for my actual ability to go to each of them.

Unfortunately for me, the photos that we took at this years event didn't turn-out so everything I use is courtesy of someone else. I feel like the last few events I've been to, I've had some kind of technical difficulty. My deepest apologies for the delay in posting this recap of EUCON.

When I arrived, I noticed that yet again the parking lot was nearly filled to capacity. I'm glad that there's not a charge for parking as there usually is for events like Rose City Comic Con, Cherry City Comic Con or Emerald City Comic Con.

Upon crossing the threshold of the entrance, I was taken back by how much larger it had gotten from the first year. And right there was Corvallis' own Matt's Cavalcade of Comics with his huge display of Funko Pops. I always appreciate stopping at Matt's when I go to events because there's always several Pops that I need for my collection. This year was no different.

First Doctor for my friend Scott, who is an avid Dr. Who fan.

I've always been a Star Wars collector from the beginning.

I never seem to find the exclusive Pops at Target.

Another good thing about the local events, I always get to re-connect with several Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer contributing artists. This year I was fortunate to touch base with Shawn & AnnMare Cruz from Corrosive Comics Studio, Robert "Floydman" Sumner from Planet F Studios, Ron Randall, Kristel Joslin from Kristel's Kreations, Randy Emberlin and even Jason Metcalf.

As I was strolling around, taking in all the sights, I noticed that Toys for Tots was even represented at this years event. As I've mentioned before, I appreciate seeing non-profit's at comic events.

Photo from KEZI.

If I had to find one thing that disappointed me it would be the fact that some of the celebrities that I was looking forward to meeting cancelled. I know this is par for any event and it isn't something that EUCON could control.

When I hear that both wrestlers Paige and Alberto Del Rio were going to attend, I was considering finding their action figures for them to sign.

The first celeb that was announced for EUCON this year was Cooper Andrews from The Walking Dead. I was hoping that my friend Scott would be able to add another autograph to his growing collection on his Walking Dead comic he received as a Christmas gift from his wife a few years back.

When I first hear that he was only able to make it on Saturday due to a filming conflict, my thoughts raced to the idea that he had to go film Talking Dead because his character, "Jerry", had died. Then it was announced that he wouldn't be able to attend at all, I was certain that I was right. Of course they wouldn't want an actor attend an event the day before their character was going to be killed off the show. On Saturday, I found this posted on Facebook and my heart sunk.

After watching the episode, I was happy that I was wrong.

I'm eagerly looking forward to next years event. I know that for as good as this year was, next years will be even better. If going to Rose City Comic Con for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer doesn't pan out, I think that I will work to focus my attention to representing at next years EUCON. As much as I would love to be able to attend both for the full duration to help spread the word for #CBC4C, I doubt that I would be able to afford doing both. I'm just starting to work the numbers now. If I can budget for having enough for both, you will see it here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

Title:  Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

ISBN: 9781568585598

Price: $16.99

Publisher/Year: Nation Books, 2017

Artist: Koren Shadmi

Writer: David Kushner

Rating: 3.5/5

Storytelling was never the same after Dungeons & Dragons. When players, guided by a dungeon master, knit a dense narrative whose many threads are each supported by their neighbors, it makes the case that many voices are greater than one. This is the pitch on which Dungeons & Dragons stakes its brand.

We see the same technique in Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D, a new graphic novel about how cherished D&D co-creator Gary Gygax birthed Dungeons & Dragons. Together, author David Kushner (Masters of Doom) and artist Koren Shadmi animate the characters orbiting Gygax throughout D&D’s origin story. It’s not just the combination of narrative, dialogue and illustration that gives Rise of the Dungeon Master the multi-voiced feel. Kushner’s chapters begin with second-person callouts like “You are Ernest Gary Gygax” or “You are [co-creator] Dave Arneson,” continuing that conceit throughout the tales of poring over miniatures and calculating stat tables. It’s a bid for readers’ emotional investment. It works. Rise of the Dungeon Master is an enchanting history of Dungeon & Dragons, and of Gary Gygax, that you can read in one sitting.

And yet, perhaps Gygax has enjoyed enough time on D&D’s altar of hero worship.

Rise of the Dungeon Master is about the first, and the most authoritative, dungeon master, the face and the brand identity of a franchise that lives and dies by its players and not by its personalities. But as a fundamentally participatory storytelling medium, D&D’s origin is owed to the players, not just the dungeon masters. As of now, their voices are eclipsed.

This graphic novel is actually the second book to fully chronicle the life of Dungeons & Dragons’s much-venerated co-creator. The first, 2015’s Empire of Imagination, written by Gygax devotee Michael Witwer, was almost as much fanfiction as biography. With broad strokes, Witwer painted the picture of a Gygax who was in turns a loving father and strict superintendent of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. Witwer’s narrative is that Dungeons & Dragons sprung from the enterprising, tactical mind of its genius creator, with a little help from co-creator Dave Arneson, a rules guy, and a lot of resistance from soulless suits who hoped to wrest D&D from Gygax’s prying hands (In 1985, the company Gygax founded to publish D&D ousted him.)

While Witwer’s focus was on the business of Dungeons & Dragons, Kushner and Shadmi’s tale dwells more on its brand personality, with Gygax as the face of that brand. Kushner’s narrative of how Dungeons & Dragons grew from a whimsical take on wargaming to a collaborative fantasy game is a smooth one. Gygax grew up as an all-American child of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he would roam the town’s underground tunnels and shoot birds with his BB gun. At age 18, Gygax discovered H.G. Wells’ Little Wars, a wargame that had players—“boys” and “that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books,” the book quotes—control infantry, cavalry and artillery to play out battles. Tactics took a front seat. Gygax, a devoted rules enthusiast, relished in outthinking his opponents.

Gygax rejected the “tedious” story and quippy dialogue of Lord of the Rings, today a reference point for Dungeons & Dragons, preferring Robert E. Howard’s pulp world of Conan the Barbarian. It was Conan’s sword-and-sorcery adventures that inspired Gygax’s Chainmail, his first role-playing game for medieval miniatures. Later, Gygax and Arneson would pitch its expanded fantasy ruleset, which it eventually dubbed Dungeons & Dragons, as a tactics-heavy fantasy wargame.

If you compare Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures to today’s, it will strike you how much control—and veneration—he allocates to the dungeon master. In the “Notes for the Dungeon Master”of his famous “Tomb of Horrors” module, he warns that players who are not clever will not enjoy the module. He goes on to detail everything from the false entrance tunnel’s exact dimensions (“at the count of 1 only a slight bit protrudes, at 2 it is 2'+ a bit out into the corridor, at 3 it is 4'+, at 4 it is 6'+, at 5 it is 9', at 6 it Is 11'+, at 7 it is 13'+, at 8 it is at 16', at 9 the block is 18'+ across. . .”). In his Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Gygax again assigns great narrative power to the DM: “Here are the bones of the adventure. You must breathe life into this framework after you flesh it out.”

It is he, the smiling, all-knowing dungeon master, who controls the game’s mysteries. An afterthought, players are the puppets who act out the fantasy. And yet, Kushner writes, “D&D will live and die by word of mouth.” Well, who are these players who proselytized the game? How did their write-in rule suggestions make their way into official material? Rise of the Dungeon Master doesn’t say.

Today’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures ask more of the player and less of the dungeon master. Scenarios are open-ended. Dungeon dimensions are less particular, to leave room for players’ whimsies. On top of their race, class, alignment and stats, today’s character sheets want to know why the player adventures, and what they ultimately hope to gain. Today’s Dungeon Master’s Guild, an official D&D website that publishes anyone’s adventures and additions to the game, tells us who really owns its legacy. It was Gygax who originally fought against making the ruleset open source.

Rise of the Dungeon Master is a masterful telling of the story of Gygax, his co-creator and collaborators, but it is done in service of the almighty DM. Today is the age of the player, and we are a vital part of the history of Dungeons & Dragons sorely missed in histories such as these.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

8 years now, and making some changes

Has it actually been 8 years now? I remember having so many trades to read and review. Stacks of each. These days, the stack of trades to read is not nearly as tall and same with the stack of trades needing to be reviewed. My resources for purchasing new trades has been very limited the past few years, and I haven't been buying as much.

My biggest thrill is when I go to events like Rose City Comic Con and get to find vendors that have trades marked down to an incredible level. Buying trades for even less than what I would pay for them in a used book store is such a great feeling. Unfortunately, I have been looking at these opportunities as a collector and not just a reviewer. I've been cherry-picking for volume 1's of titles I've not read yet where most of the available stock are later volumes because they didn't fair as well as the first. I see this now as I write this article, and I am disappointed in myself.

Because of this shortage, I have been trying to find ways to branch-out to keep my blog interesting for you.

You'll notice that for several years I've been covering events around the Northwest as a member of the press. I've been blessed to be included in the past several Rose City Comic Con's, and this year I was fortunately to be able to cover the first Northwest Comic Con (now Oregon Coast Comic Con). As I'm writing this, I'm waiting to hear back from Eugene Comic Con (EUCON) to see if I'll be covering it as a member of the press.

I hope that the reviews that I've been posting for these events have been helpful to both the event coordinators and attendees. I would like to take some measure of credit for Rose City expanding to 3 days.

Looking forward to 2018, I'm planning on making a large push for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer (#CBC4C). I'll be attending Oregon Coast Comic Con in March, and I'm going to try my hardest to get a table or booth at Rose City Comic Con. This will not only take a lot of my time to prepare, but it will also take additional resources (funding) to make sure I have enough to warrant having a table at both of these events. For Oregon Coast Comic Con, I have recently made an agreement with artist Neil Jorge to do a con exclusive print for CBC4C. I'm very excited to see what he comes up with. I'm hoping to do something similar for Rose City.

Going forward, I think I may also branch-out to start doing some interviews with people in the comics world. I'm inspired to try this because earlier this year, Warrior Innkeeper Creative publisher Benjamin Kreger interviewed me as part of a "Worthy Wednesday" piece for his Black Suit of Death #2 Kickstarter.

I'm still going to be writing my reviews, but they will only be published occasionally instead of on a regular basis like they used to be. This should be a huge issue to my loyal readers as this has been going on for the past year now... at least. I apologize for that, and I hope I've been able to make it worth the while with other posts.

Thank you all for your continued support. Please keep track of me here and on Facebook. Here's hoping for a great year 9!

-John "Zanziber" Rogers

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I

 Title: Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I ISBN: 0919359094 Price: $ Publisher/Year: Aardvark-Vanheim, 1987 Artist: Gerhard Writer: ...